The advancement of Lebanese-Russian ties was at the center of discussions made by an economic delegation that was on a three-day visit to Moscow, including ministers of economy and trade, industry, and tourism, as well as the exchange of technology knowledge with Moscow, and Russia’s investments in pharmaceuticals industry.
Mohamad Choucair, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, said: “Political and security stability has helped us to develop touristic cooperation with Russia. We will market tourism through specialized Russian companies.”
Jean Abboud, Chairman of the Syndicate of Travel Agencies, said: “The first stage will see Russian businessmen and investors rather than tourists, as was the case in Turkey.” He said in further steps, and after providing the infrastructure including large resorts and hotels, we will start seeing more tourists.
There are currently no constraints in providing visas for Russians. “It’s very easy for them to obtain a visa, but it is difficult for Lebanese citizens to obtain a Russian visa.”
Abboud said: “I think that investors will be interested in the country, because Russia is politically involved in the region.”
According to Abboud, the visit of the present delegation is a serious step but needs follow up.
The Russian private sector is also interested in the oil and gas sector. Recently, two companies out of nine, PJSC Lukoil, and JSC Novatek, applied to partake in the first licensing round. In the first bid for qualification four years ago another company, Rosneft, had also applied.
Jacques Sarraf, Chairman of the Russian Lebanese Business Council, asked the VTB bank to open a branch in the country, to encourage Russian companies to invest, and to facilitate bilateral trade. A Russian bank may also be helpful for bilateral trade between Lebanon and all countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes nine of the 15 old Soviet Republics.
Two Russian banks once operated locally, Moscow Narodny Bank, and more recently Gazprom, but both closed.
During the delegation, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Tripoli and the North, signed an agreement with RUARIA LLC, a trade company, to boost the export of agricultural and agro-food industrial products to Russia.